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Capitalism is not a success

Sample student paper

By: Noah

"Capitalism is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not true, it is not virtuous and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place we are extremely perplexed." John Maynard Keynes (Albert, Judging Economics) Contemporary alternatives such as centrally planned socialism as well as market socialism have both been attempted with the later possibly being the more successful of the two. Even though their goals were more equitable distribution neither provides a totally egalitarian society. In the centrally planned systems there was clear division between the planners and the workers, which immediately created class conflict. In the market socialist economies private ownership of the means to production were eliminated but the force of markets still exists as well as a division of labor between the coordinator class and the working class. (Albert, Market Socialism) So if we decide that either of the latter options are not the answers to overcome the capitalistic machine and that the capitalistic system is not successful in providing equity among all its citizens where can we turn for hope?  The answer could possibly be found in what is known as Parecon (participatory economics), which is an economic system that is based on the democratic participation of every citizen in both their working life and their life as a consumer.


In the United States immediately the question may arise as to what is the problem with capitalism. This idea has been ingrained in our culture and minds as the path and even the vehicle to the "American Dream." So as soon as it is attacked the great majority of us become defensive and confused. People may ask if you are aware that we are the most powerful nation in the world, or tell you that we have the highest standard of living on the globe. These people may be right that we are arguably the most powerful nation in the world but many fail to ask at whose expense we have gained this power and what were the methods used in doing so. The answers lie in Capitalism, which in its truest nature creates competition between individuals on all levels. In order to get ahead you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to assure you have the upper hand in transactions as often as possible. Capitalism also creates two classes immediately, the owners of means to production and those that have to sell their labor for wages. There is also a third party the coordinator class that operates as a mediator between the two but that is still somewhat exploited by the capitalist class.(Albert, Capitalism) This division causes great disparity in the standard of living between the said groups, with about two percent of the population owning sixty percent of the wealth.(Albert) It is the capitalistic mindset, me first, that seems to allow many of us to accept this fact and live with it because in a capitalist mind one has to believe the most apt person is the person that will be able to move up the ladder of stratification the quickest leaving the "less" skilled or dedicated to the bottom rungs eating crumbs of the economic pie.

Capitalism is also based on the fact of ever growing economic growth, which means that to exist other markets and people have to also buy into this idea in order for the machine to keep running. Sustainability is not a tenet of capitalism and so it could be argued that this economic system will ultimately starve this world of all of its resources if not stopped or at least restrained. Presently the United States has roughly three percent of the world's population but is responsible for half of its consumption. (Albert) Can we imagine a world in which China and India embrace capitalism whole-heartedly? As their median incomes continue to rise and if they chose to pattern their style of consumption after ours it is not difficult to guess the impact that will have on our earth, millions of people's cultures, and not to mention our country which may to its surprise find out that we are not the only ones capable of playing the game at such a proficient level.

So stepping back and looking at our economic model it is easy to say that on a personal level our system is not equitable. Is it reasonable that the average CEO earns more than 150 times the average worker(Anderson pg 490), are their skills and expertise that much more valuable than the persons who make their product or service available? Our leaders will tell you that our markets are efficient and that the market prices are set at a price that allows a mutually beneficial transaction between buyer and seller. This statement could be argued with the fact that our markets do not figure in the effect of products on all parties especially in the area of pollution and life cycles of our products. These issues are not addressed wholly when markets set their price so it could be argued that our markets are not as efficient as thought.(Albert, Markets) In a globalized setting we also see that the same hierarchies that our corporatism creates amongst us is spread to nation relationships. As multi-national corporations pursue new markets and profits, many people will continue to be exploited.

If humanity plans to exist for as long as possible it may be helpful to start looking into different economic models that not only have less of a brutal impact on our environment but that also provide true equality among individuals. It is necessary to lose the me-first attitude and realize that we are all in this together. Through cooperation and informed citizenry we can begin to focus on alternatives to capitalism.

One such alternative is known as participatory economics or parecon, which in its essence makes true democracy central to everyday life.  Parecon takes away private ownership and the feelings of entitlement that go along with it and places the ownership with the society. Parecon focuses on effort and sacrifice when it comes to compensation for work rather than for property, power, or output. Through nested worker and consumer councils people will gain a voice in decisions that directly affect them which may combat many of the feelings of helplessness that seem to permeate our society today. Instead of the unfair division of labor and hierarchies that our capitalist system have produced parecon would replace them with more balanced job complexes which would not assign people to lives of carrying out less fulfilling and menial task but give individuals the options to gain training and the chance to take on more complex and stimulating jobs in their work place. (Albert, Job complexes)  No longer would the their be a boss who sat in the office all day doling out assignments while not ever having to break a sweat, because in this system he/she would be required to complete tasks of "less" importance as well. The different councils would participate in the valuation and distribution of products through society with a third body known as facilitators that would first set indicative prices on objects which would be presented to the consumer councils who would then vote on the amount and price they feel fair and return the proposal to the facilitators who would then pass on to the worker councils which would then counter the offer considering demand and sending it back to the consumer councils.(Albert,Councils) In this way a person or groups of persons could object to products and the delivery of services if they feel they are not conducive to the communities' way of life. Parecon strives to create equity, solidarity, self-management, diversity, and classlessness.(Albert, A New Vision) Parecon recognizes that some people have inborn talent and are suited better for different job positions but instead of saying that certain jobs hold more prestige it focuses on an individuals effort and sacrifice at whatever their jobs may be.(Albert, Job Complexes)

Can we imagine this as a society? Can we make the decision not to consider ourselves and our agendas of the utmost importance? Is it possible to recognize that every one of us has a role in our society and that they are all imperative to our overall well-being? Can we begin to look at our decisions collectively and examine the impacts they have on others? Could we ever realize that paper money is only an idea and not something to sell your soul for? Unfortunately many among us are not willing or able to see the flaws that exist in our society and a great many of us recognize some of the flaws but feel overwhelmed when choosing what to actually do in retaliation. It will take open minds, open hearts, and courage to stand up to the forces that wish to hold us in oppression while they reap the rewards.


Work Cited

Albert, Michael. Life After Capitalism. Pub.Verso London:

2003. http//www.zmag.org/books/parecon/parefinal.html


Anderson, Margret L. and Howard F. Taylor. General Sociology: Social Change and Institutions.United

 States: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008